What is the Family Systemic Model?

What is the Family Systemic Model (Invitational Approach)?


An addict’s dangerous and deadly behaviors not only affect themselves but they also affect the family members around them. Some of the side effects of an addiction can include, but are not limited to:

  1. Depression
  2. Aggression
  3. Weight Loss/Gain
  4. Suicidal
  5. Impulsiveness
  6. Manic behavior

Did you know, though, that many of these side effects not only affect the addict but also their family members and loved ones?

Many individuals who engage in substance abuse operate under the impression that their behavior affects only them; however, that’s not the case.

The individual’s behavior affects many others, most importantly members of their family and close friends.

The person with a substance use disorder actually resembles an individual with a communicable disease who brings certain aspects of their disorder into the home, affecting the way members of the family behave and function. Even if other family members do not use drugs or alcohol or have no other addictive behaviors, they are still impacted by the actions of the individual with the substance use disorder.

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What Is The Family Systemic Model?

A Family Systemic Model also referred to as the invitational approach model that was developed by Ed Speare and Wayne Raiter. It is a way that an entire family can truly heal from an addiction as a whole if the family is involved with the treatment.

This model is based on the idea that if the system changes, every individual within the system will also change, including the addict (systems theory). It is designed to be a non-confrontational and non-judgmental form of intervention.

The ultimate goal of the Family Systemic Model is the entire family will become motivated to seek treatment for themselves and to teach them the following healthy traits:

  1. Communicating in a healthy way
  2. Support
  3. Encouragement

How the Systemic Family Model Works in an Intervention

In the Systemic Family Intervention, the following takes place:

  • The intervention group consists of family members only and a professional.
  • The family hires a professional intervention specialist or a mental health worker with experience in the treatment of substance use disorders and in performing interventions.
  • The intervention specialist sets up a series of appointments and calls the person with a substance use disorder right away to invite them to the meetings. The interventionist does not confront the person with the substance use disorder during this initial interaction, but may explain why the meetings are being held.
  • Meetings occur involving the interventionist, family members directly involved, and the person with the substance use disorder. They are not secret planning sessions.
  • The group discusses the nature of substance use disorders in general, as well as how they affect a person’s health. The nature of addiction and its impacts on family members and others are often discussed by the interventionist. This is done in a generic psychoeducational framework, with no specific example from the family.
  • The interventionist may discuss various types of treatment for individuals with substance use disorders and often will concentrate on the specific substance use disorder in question. For example, if the target person has an alcohol use disorder, a stimulant use disorder, cannabis use disorder, etc., the interventionist will discuss specific issues associated with that disorder.
  • The group may also talk about how the individual’s behavior affects family members.
  • The interventionist discusses how the communication styles of the family members can be adjusted to allow everyone to communicate and express their feelings and thoughts in a clear, concise manner.
  • The intervention specialist may talk about how the individual’s family influences his or her behavior and how they contribute to the individual’s substance usage.
  • The person is encouraged to get treatment.
  • Family members are also encouraged to seek medical and social support, such as by attending support groups.
  • The process often consists of five or more meetings.
  • In the best-case scenario, the family unit agrees to participate in treatment to handle the situation. This can include individual substance use disorder therapy for the intervention subject, family treatment for the family, and support group participation for everyone, among other things.
  • The group begins to exert more gentle pressure for treatment as more meetings are completed.
  • Once all of the individuals who need treatment agree to get it, the intervention process is complete. If some members still decline treatment, there may be consequences associated with this.
  • After the intervention phase is completed, treatment is often continued. Depending on the individual difficulties being addressed, therapies and social support group participation may last for years.

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